If anyone knows the ins and outs of Hollywood, it’s Kate Bosworth, whose acting career started when she was just 15. In the years since her 1998 debut film The Horse Whisperer, the actor has starred in many successful projects, but her newest role is that of producer. Along with her husband, Michael Polish, Bosworth created a production company and opened a film school in Montana in 2018. And now, she’s teamed up with Chloe Wine Collection and Women In Film to hold the 2019 She Directed female filmmakers contest, which will set up four aspiring women directors with mentorships, and one with a $10K cash prize.
The ultimate goal of the contest, Bosworth (who’s one of the judges) says, is for there to be more representative stories told in Hollywood. “What I hope people will do with this initiative is to really be inspired and challenged to tell a story that’s unique to them, [because] the stories that I’ve always loved most in my life are… ones that are unique or different or something that I hadn’t really thought of before,” she explains, speaking via phone.
Bosworth isn’t just encouraging other women to share their work through directing and writing, though — she’s also using her producing cred to tell stories about underrepresented people Her company’s recent movie, Nona, for instance, which came out in December and is available on-demand, co-stars Bosworth and follows a girl from Honduras named Nona (Sulem Calderon) who tries to migrate to the U.S., but instead falls victim to a human trafficking ring.
With Nona, Bosworth hoped to raise awareness about human trafficking, which is a colossal issue; according to a 2017 report from the International Labor Organization, 3.8 million adults were victims of forced sexual exploitation in 2016. “If it were more in the open, people would rise up and just refuse to accept this because it is modern day slavery,” says Bosworth. Nona makes clear that these victims aren’t faceless statistics. “Our aim and our hope for the movie was to connect with a deeper sense of humanity with the issue and also to connect with a deeper sense of empathy,” explains the actor “It’s not just someone else’s problem… These are human beings.”
Nona was self-funded — “I quite literally put my money where my mouth was in this one,” says Bosworth — and it’s an example of the real work the star is doing to depict greater representation on-screen. It’s a passion she’s always had, even before she started working behind-the-scenes. She recalls how, with her 2008 film 21, she requested a re-write on her character, Jill, to be made more realistic. Says the actor, “The way [Jill] was originally written was like, [wearing] high heels running around the campus. There wasn’t a lot to her.” Luckily, she was able to collaborate with the film’s writer to enhance the character. “I was just lucky that I had a collaborator who was willing to listen to a young woman at the time,” Bosworth says.
Other times, Bosworth wasn’t so lucky when attempting to change aspects of her characters. “I’ve had a lot of other moments where it’s like, ‘pat on the head, we don’t really need your opinion, just say the line,'” she recalls. She did have a great experience playing Anne Marie Chadwick in 2002’s blockbuster Blue Crush, a character she deems a great example of a complex on-screen woman. Then-Vice President of Universal Pictures, Donna Langley, and producer Brian Grazer, were committed to making Blue Crush as realistic as possible, says Bosworth — even though they knew she didn’t share her character’s love of surfing.
“When Blue Crush came to me, I’d never touched a surfboard in my life but I was like, I know this girl and I know what it feels like to want a dream so badly that you’ll crawl across broken glass or drown or whatever it might be,” Bosworth recalls. “There was an affinity to this character that wasn’t for the sport, it was through the actual person, and I love that that movie continues to touch people.”
Since Blue Crush, Bosworth has taken on many different projects she finds important, including a TV show, The I-Land and a movie, The Devil Has a Name, both out this year. “It really matters to me that I hold myself accountable to do the best that I can,” says the actor, “because what’s the point otherwise?” And with her production company and contest, she’s inspiring many others to feel the same.